Experiencing Aboriginal Culture in Cairns, Australia
In Cairns, a city of a little over 100,000 people, where sugarcane is almost as important as tourism, an aboriginal outpost called Tjapukai is a culture park where Australia’s indigenous people are proud to show their talents.
Tjapukai is an aboriginal word for the people of the oceanfront who speak their own dialect (the aboriginals are considered world’s oldest living culture, going back to over 50,000 years).
As part of Azamara Club Cruises’ “AzAmazing Evenings,” the entire ship was transported to an evening of indigenous music and dance. Tjapukai is crammed with hand-painted Digeridoos, boomerangs and paintings so colorful that they glow like neon coral. And they are not unaffordable: a boomerang, for example, will set you back some $45 Aussie dollars.
Situated right next to the Armour & Artillery Museum, Tjapukai (“Where Australia Begins” is its clever tag line) gave us an evening of immersion. From the deep, booming sounds of the Digeridoo (“nature’s voicebox” as one Australian native put it, and “carved from termites”) to the aboriginal dancing onstage, we were treated to the country’s natural sounds.
One Aboriginal descendant called Samson, who had a beautiful string of dots on his face, explained that his elaborate water-based body paint was a pictorial representation of his name. At the end of the evening, I grew much closer to understanding and appreciating the customs of this tribe.
Australia was calling: here, I heard its wild voice.